Nol de Koning - Palinuro, 1989 (video stills)


Box started: 24 03 24

Last update: 25 03 24



> The Elegiac approach

> Et in Arcadia - Elissa's glow

> Dido's glow - Helena Neaira's song


Et in Arcadia - Elissa's glow as a book

> Dutch version

> English version (in progress)


Dido's glow - Helena Neaira's song

> About the work as a operatic digital short

> The one channel version as a submission for Lif '24

> Palinurus box

> Elyssa's box

> Deiphobes' box (in preparation)

> home

> appendicesmenu






It is certainly true that the epic from the time of the Roman emperor Augustus represents to some extent a political ideology, and so does Virgil's Aeneid on which the story of my fantasy Elissa's glow is based. Or as the classicist David Rijser succinctly put it in a paper on this subject: 'in Augustan Rome the medium is the message'. 1)  In the course of the last century, however, people came to the idea that the Aeneid is not just a praise of Augustus, to grant the emperor a divine descent and his empire a divine legitimation, but, in the words of the British classicist J.F. Jackson Knight, also an attack on Augustus and his autocracy. A vision that really appealed to me when I started working on my video installation Palinuro in 1988 and has had a great influence on that video work and on the work that has emerged from it.

This is also the case with the present concept for the one-act musical theatre play Et in Arcadia - Elissa's glow, which I see as a sequel to that video work and it's related works. In the concept plan of that work (concept and fantasy) I will therefore briefly pay attention to how Virgil's main work can be interpreted as a sceptical work about the history and realization of Augustus' utopia. Or as Jackson Knight put it: “Virgil knew the price of Empire; the price of sorrow, and the price of conscience, and of so many pleasant things.” 2)

The ambiguity in the message of the Aeneid - Virgil's two voices: a public voice and a private voice - is still a subject of discussion in academic circles, although the contradictions have weakened and other voices - other and further voices - have sound. That is the power of a great work of art and also the inspiring thing about it, that its layered message is not dogmatically unambiguous and never fully reveals its deepest intentions. I see Virgil, even though the Aeneid was written for political purposes at the behest of Augustus, first and foremost a poet and not a licking propagandist. And his main work not as a propagandistic praise poem but as a work of art in the true sense of the word, with all the freedom that ipso facto entails. For me, it is precisely the poet's different voices - openly and secretly at the same time, in an almost ironic way - through which the work continues to inspire. 3)

In my closet opera drama The K of Skylla, Aeneas' helmsman Palinurus was the protagonist of Virgil's private voice. That is still the case, and also in the concept for the present onr-act musical theatre play. Be it that Palinurus is now absent as an acting character and is only present in our mind, since he met his death in what preceded it and now, unreachable to us, wanders as a shadow in the underworld. (Just like Elyssa of Carthage, who is usually, although not always, also called Dido in the Aeneid.) Virgil's private voice - and it will be clear: with which I am only too happy to agree - is now voiced by three visionaries, Kassandra, Deiphobe and Hekalene. And by Helena Neaira, a daughter of Helen of Sparta and Troy, glorified as an adoptive muse, who still strives for a union with Palinurus even though he has also become inaccessible to her.

According to the Australian classicist H. Slaney, it has been recognized since the eighteenth century that melancholy is a defining characteristic of the Aeneid and the attention to the political undertone is something of recent times. 4)  But even though the latter no longer predominates: the melancholy musings are still there, although according to Slaney it will now be difficult for novelists and poets to read the Aeneid without a certain degree of parody, irony or at least cynical disappointment.
And this also applies, let the reader be clear, to the apparently sublime story - my sublime story - that underlies the fantasy of this draft plan, as well as to the often high-minded underlying thoughts that are unfolded in it.

(ndk, spring 2022)


1. '(...) the premise that artistic form, style and phraseology in Augustan Rome not merely contains, but to a certain extent constitute political ideology. Or to use a modern phrase: that in Augustan Rome 'the medium is the message.' From: David Rijser, The Tragic and the foundation of consensus in Augustan Rome. Paper brought to me by An interesting aspect of this article is also (especially because my plan concerns a theatre play) that Rijser describes how the work of Virgil was used to replace Roman tragedy and drama in general - an art form that was Augustus' time was found to be problematic for several reasons.

2. About this quote from W.F. Jackson Knight: see Interpretation, paragraph 2.

3. About the terms public, private, other voice and further voices and what those terms stand for: see also chapter Interpretation, paragraph 2; on the ambiguity of the Aeneid: see idem, section 3.

4. About H. Slaney and what is quoted here about her: see chapter The Deceptive Dream, section The Irony of Melancholy.




* ET IN ARCADIA - Elyssa's glow

concept and fantasy for a one-act musical theatre play



> Synopsis (N/E)

> Dutch version as a book

> English version as a book (in progress)




* DIDO'S GLOW - Helena Neaira's song

a musical video installation - spin-off of Elyssa's glow

Two versions:

* as a two channel video installation/sculpture

* as a one channel video work


The two channel video installation/sculpture version (2021)

draft of the the two-channel video installation version (Helena Neaira's quest)


The one channel video version (2024)

draft of the the one-channel video projection version (Dido's curse)

draft of the the one-channel video projection version (entering Skylla's petrified womb)


More about the work and the one- and two-channel versions:

> About the work as a operatic digital short

> About the one channel version as a submission for LIF 2024 festival

> About valorizing the locations used for filming, as well as the cultural identity of the territories in which the films are set. For Ischia Film Festival 24

> About the one channel version as a submission for the Napoli FF and Gulf of Naples IFF 24

> About the one channel version as a submission for Sicily Film Festival

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